How to Become a Maryland Physical Therapist Assistant
With a dynamic mixture of urban, suburban and rural population centers, coupled with a growing economy, Maryland is one of the most attractive states in America for individuals seeking long-term employment in the healthcare field.
This is especially true for those who are interested in becoming physical therapist assistants (PTAs).
What is a PTA?
A PTA is a medical professional who, under the supervision of a physical therapist, physician or other medical professional, plans, administers and evaluates a plan of physical therapy to a patient.
Physical therapists range from individuals working in hospitals who assist patients in recovering from surgical procedures, to individuals providing outpatient services for individuals who have suffered sports related injuries.
In most cases, physical therapy plans are individualized, requiring the PTA to be able to develop a personal relationship with his or her patients.
The most common types of services a PTA provides include the following:
- Post-operative therapy designed to help an individual regain the function of an injured limb.
- General therapy to help those individuals who have been bedridden for a long period of time.
- PTAs often provide physical therapy to the elderly, both to assist them in maintaining their independence and to assist in staving off age related degenerative conditions.
- For individuals who have suffered the loss of a limb, PTAs help implement a plan of training and therapy designed to assist the patient in learning how to effectively use prosthetics.
- Many PTAs work in the field of sports medicine, where they help athletes recover from their injuries.
Becoming a Physical Therapist Assistant in Maryland
Like all American states except for Hawaii, Maryland requires that anyone seeking to work as a PTA be licensed by the Maryland Board of Physical Therapy Examiners.
This board sets and regularly updates the requirements for licensure, so anyone seeking to become a PTA in Maryland should first check with the Board in order to ensure that their planned course of study will conform to the current licensure requirements.
Maryland currently requires that individuals seeking licensure have graduated from a Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) accredited program and complete the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE). Individuals who are licensed in another state may seek to obtain licensure by endorsement, which will allow them to become licensed in Maryland without having to repeat the educational or examination process.
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Maryland has a wide variety of physical therapy assistant programs, provided by institutions ranging from community colleges to vocational schools. In most cases, these programs will take approximately two years for a student to complete, assuming a full-time schedule.
A part-time student will take longer to complete the program, but a part-time schedule permits those students who are currently working or caring for children to complete the program without being forced to abandon their current responsibilities.
It is important that all students verify that their program is currently CAPTE accredited. The CAPTE ensures that all accredited schools adhere to high standards of professional and educational excellence. Furthermore, Maryland will not accept educational work completed at a non-accredited school.
Graduates from foreign schools that are not accredited by the CAPTE must be able to demonstrate that their PTA program adheres to standards substantially equal to those of a CAPTE accredited school.
Taking the NPTE
The NPTE is the national examination for physical therapist assistants. In some cases, the test may be referred to as the NPTAE. Passing this examination verifies that the candidate is qualified to perform all of a PTA’s duties. Furthermore, because the NPTE is regularly updated to remain current with the modern state of physical therapy, those candidates who have passed the NPTE have also demonstrated that they are up to date with the current state of the art in physical therapy.
While it is possible to repeat the NPTE after failing the exam, this can result in delays in licensure so the student should only take the NPTE when he or she is certain of passing the examination. In some cases a prepared student may be able to take the NPTE before graduating from his or her program, thereby reducing the amount of time needed to become licensed in Maryland.
Licensure by Endorsement
Individuals who are already licensed in another state may obtain licensure by endorsement. This procedure permits them to avoid having to repeat the educational process in order to obtain licensure. Maryland requires that the individual provide a copy of all licenses he or she holds in other states.
In addition, the relevant state licensing authorities must verify these licenses. There are other requirements to obtain licensure by endorsement that may vary depending on the state the individual is currently licensed in. For this reason, anyone seeking licensure by endorsement should contact the Maryland Board to determine the specific requirements for licensure by endorsement.
Becoming a PTA in Maryland can be an excellent choice for those seeking a long-term and secure career in the healthcare sector.
Whether they are working at a hospital or providing in home care to the disabled, Maryland PTAs provide a vital and highly respected service to the people of Maryland, making this career both personally and professionally rewarding.